PM Weekly - the Pretotype Innovation Process

Leonardo Zangrando
↗Pretotype Matters
4 min readFeb 1, 2016


Before we start, remember that Innovation is Not “Just” a Process! In this post we merely discuss how the process part of innovation with Pretotype works!

A typical Pretotype process involves a number of quick experiments in the field, with real customers, to validate assumptions made on expected behaviours of theirs.

From ideation to final implementation of an idea, the pretotyping process identifies 2 fundamental milestones to prove Desirability of an Innovation:

  1. Initial Interest — validate that there is initial interest for an innovation, regardless of its experimental implementation;
  2. Actual Use — validate that the innovation is actually used by the customers — again, regardless of its experimental implementation — effectively giving the green light to its full-scale implementation.

A number of experiment iterations are likely to be needed to achieve each milestone.

The picture below represents a typical Pretotype Process, consisting of 2 iterative cycles for Initial Interest validation and Actual Use validation. The Pretotype activities are represented with solid blue. The objective of Pretotyping is to answer the question “Will Customers want It?” and validate “It’s the Right Thing!”

The activities for the design of a functional solution which is Feasible, Viable and Scalable are represented with solid light green and should be run not earlier than proving initial interest. Ideally they should be performed after completing the second loop of Desirability. In a future post we’ll explore how to start including Pretotype experiments in an existing innovation process.

Each Pretotype experimental iteration consists of 3 key activities:

  1. D&I — Design and Implementation of the Pretotype;
  2. R&M — Run and Measure the Pretotype;
  3. A&D — Analyse the results and Decide next steps.

The first iteration starts with an innovation idea deemed to be worth pretotyping. On the surface this might look like the traditional process in which a group of people unilaterally decide whether an innovation is worth pursuing. In reality the number of innovation ideas that are considered to pretotype should be many more — ideally all those non trivially inappropriate — thanks to the low cost of pretotypes.

The first experiment is decided jointly by the innovation proponents (the “Inventors”) and the innovation sponsors (the “Investors”) in the first Design & Implementation session (further D&I sessions will be run by the Inventors only, because the needed joint decisions will have been taken at the Analyse & Decide session of the previous iteration). Inventors and Investors decide what to test first, whether the overall concept of the innovation, or some specific assumption regarding market behaviour that needs to be validated first. They also agree on metrics and thresholds for the test. Then Inventors Design and Implement the pretotype which is then Run and Measures are collected.

In the Analyse & Decide step the results of the Pretotype experiment are analysed and discussed by the Inventors and the Investors. Finally a decision is taken. We can expect 4 possible outcomes:

  • The Innovation Idea or specific assumption to validate passed the test (green arrow)
  • More experimentation is needed to validate or disprove, a new experiment should be designed and run (orange arrow)
  • The specific assumption failed the test and the Innovation Idea should be revised (orange arrow)
  • The Innovation Idea should be dropped, back to Innovation Idea generation (red arrow)

The critical point about the Analyse & Decide activity is that Inventors and Investors jointly agree about the success or failure of the experiment based on pre-agreed metrics and thresholds. If a further experiment is due they also jointly decide the metrics and thresholds for the following experiment.

That’s basically it! As soon as initial Market Interest has been proven — that is, we got to the “Looks Promising!” point — the same cycle is repeated again to validate Actual Use and prove Desirability. In the picture the two cycles are shown as separate just for the sake of clarity, but in fact it’s the same process repeating, until the Innovation Idea is finally proven to be “the right thing!”

At that point it’s safe to start developing the innovation in practical terms as an actual product or service, through more traditional processes, building Prototypes and testing for Technical Feasibility, Economical Viability and Business Scalability.

The introduction of pretotyping in an existing development process and the interplay with the existing process require a slightly different approach, that we are going to discuss in a future post.

I’m Leonardo Zangrando.

I’m passionate about unlocking potential in people and organisations.
I help transform organisations and increase their innovation leverage.
I help people fulfill their true potential in society.

Follow me on Twitter and meet me #IRL at Launch22 incubator in London.

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Leonardo Zangrando
↗Pretotype Matters

⎈ MSc Naval Architect, MBA — Business Innovation & Startups — the London Maritime Startup Accelerator